On patience

first quilt
My first quilt, a wholecloth piece with appliqued text.

I started quilting earlier this year on the basis of one project: the Sea-Fever quilt. I wanted to see it live and in person, and so I started sewing. On the one hand, this is a work animated by ridiculous and grandiose notions. (Let’s make it bedspread sized! And all hand quilted! It’ll be great!)

On the other hand, ever since I started, in odd hours I’ve been hand stitching.

The applique was the easy part. I spent many cozy winter afternoons stretched out with fabric tucked warmly over my lap, needle in hand, music on the stereo.

The hand quilting is another order of magnitude more involved.

I began by stitching across the width of the quilt several times, just to stabilize the layers. Now I’m starting to pick out drifts of stitches, like moonlight cast over the water. I figure there will be a thousand feet of thread in this quilt eventually. It’s subtle stuff with thin thread, and I wonder if anyone will even notice once the quilt is done.

But you know what? I’m still working at it.

I don’t feel hurried. I’m not irritated at how long it’s taking. I’m not convinced I have a hundred better ideas for how this could have, should have gone. I’m not shunting the quilt aside to the limbo of terminally unfinished projects. I still have the finished piece in mind, and I’m still satisfied to work toward that idea. In short, I am patient.

This comes as something of a shock.

Patience is not something I’m known for. I’m as guilty as anyone of charging into a project without learning the basic skills—heck, I did it on this very project. Often I’d lose interest halfway along, usually at the precise moment I realized I didn’t have the stamina or skills to carry it off particularly well.

So why am I finishing this? What has changed?

I don’t really know. It could be a something to do with age. I waved farewell to my 30s awhile ago, and as I gain more actual and less potential maybe I have a different sense of time and its usages.

Maybe I’ve finally found my métier: quilting unites the tangible, the ideal, and the practical in a way I particularly love. It could be that I finally want the product more than all the alternatives that could happen in that time.

Or perhaps something else has happened: something I haven’t noticed except as evidenced by this change.

Quilting gives a person plenty of time for long thoughts, so perhaps I’ll figure out what it is. Perhaps I won’t. But either way, I’ll be stitching.


4 thoughts on “On patience

  1. What a great perspective on quilting, and patience. I give you so much credit for taking a hand-quilted project like this on, and for having the peace to do it well and not in a rush. Please post on you progress occasionally, I would love to read about it!


  2. I love your writing style Shelley. And am quite impressed by your jumping into quilting with a hand sewn project. Kudos and welcome to our group.


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